Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The "Lost" Thunderbird Photo

The "Lost" Thunderbird Photo
The "Lost" Thunderbird Photo

Thunderbirds - and "living dinosaurs," in general - are a difficult topic to discuss, due to religious Fundamentalists, moneyed "experts" who receive backing from shady organizations and are known to falsify research, and a general lack of evidence that has been made public.

Many photos, video documentation, even alleged specimen, regarding a great number of topics we discuss exist in private collections that are not made accessible to the public. Some can be found in reputable books (where they were licensed for publication), others in privately-owned museums where no photography is allowed, and elsewhere - just not online. Uploading them can result in termination of accounts (though the images are usually just reported/removed), and has - as they are protected by Copyright and similar restrictions.

Stories of Thunderbirds go back centuries, but appear to be specific to North America. While tales of winged, sky-faring, man-eating beasts appear in cultures around the world, the very term is taken from Native American accounts. Early settlers' accounts repeatedly mention the fear American Indians had of these creatures, and record tales of their attacks on people - mostly children. These scant details bear the hallmarks of Legend, but the story goes deeper.

Accounts of posses being amassed, and hunts being organized, for Thunderbirds also exist in historical record. In several cases, these hunts were carried-out by otherwise serious-minded, "common" people of Anglo-Saxon descent who may have been swept-up by hysterical tales of recent attacks, or sightings in the area. Others were expeditions carried-out by wealthy trophy hunters - even more important, as it proves that belief in these tales was strong enough to entice men of a higher status (and assumptively better education) into paying top-dollar, and traveling the world to brave unchartered territory, just for the chance to nab one!

There are a handful of similar photos, all of which appear to be fakes based on the fabled accounts of "The Lost Thunderbird picture" - none of which mention Vicksburg or the Civil War, by the way. Most Thunderbird accounts of that period came from the American Southwest - Arizona and the immediate area, to be precise. Some of these tales were likely cases of mistaken identity coupled with fear - the product of conditioning from hearing tales of such fearsome, loathsome beasts since childhood - others, however, are not as easily dismissed.

And though some modern researchers have conducted studies that seemingly "prove" modern people untrained in Zoology often misidentify known creatures - not something serious researchers question in the first place - their apocryphal data proves nothing regarding the knowledge of ancient tribal peoples whose entire lives were spent living and working in tandem with their natural surroundings. This is especially true of American Indian culture, which revered nature and the animal kingdom. On a separate note, the very hypothesis smacks of racial bias, as it seems to "confirm" the era's prevailing, racist views toward Amer-Indians more than anything.

This alleged picture of a Thunderbird hunt may well be the "Lost Thunderbird Photo" of paranormal lore. While many have attempted to debunk it, no conclusive evidence proving its fraudulence has come to light. Proffering that it may have been a hoax of its day - a staged photo in front of a theatrical prop or taxidermic creation - is a sound approach toward establishing reasonable doubt; resorting to claims of digital manipulation is lazy at best, and not at all convincing. As always, I am not claiming this is an authentic photograph; I remain hopefully skeptical that it is, and so far unswayed by attempts to debunk it.

Especially since I am not sure how this picture made it online, since I think it belongs to a private collection. Most of the photos from said private collection are unavailable online (although many are available in print), so I am not entirely sure how this particular photo of an alleged Thunderbird hunt around the turn of the 19th-Century persevered.

Though I, too, may be mistaken.

© The Weirding, 2017

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